Bethel School District vs Fraser, 1986

Osvaldo Gonzalez and Nashma Salcedo

On April 26, 1983, Matthew Fraser, a student at Pierce County, Washington high school. He is a senior who gave a speech suggesting classmate Jeff Kuhlman for Associated Student Body vice president. The whole speech included sexual remarks, but not pertaining in any sexual way. Word got out about the speech creating controversy between the schools and students. The administration ended up taking disciplinary actions towards the student.

Fraser’s speech is as follows-

“I know a man who is firm – he’s firm in his pants, he’s firm in his shirt, his character is firm – but most of all, his belief in you the students of Bethel, is firm. Jeff Kuhlman is a man who takes his point and pounds it in. If necessary, he’ll take an issue and nail it to the wall. He doesn’t attack things in spurts – he drives hard, pushing and pushing until finally – he succeeds. Jeff is a man who will go to the very end – even the climax, for each and every one of you. So please vote for Jeff Kuhlman, as he’ll never come between us and the best our school can be. He is firm enough to give it everything.”

After going through disciplinary policies of the school, he ended up breaking a number of violations of school policies that are, disruptive behavior, sexual content, offensive and vulgar speech. These terms we’re later evolved to include obscenity at trial.As a result he was banned from speaking at his graduation ceremony, and his name token from the ballot used to elect and represent three graduation speakers. This enraged students at Bethel High because of the speech. They did not see any reason to punish him for the speech he had gave.

Matt Fraser filed a lawsuit against the school claiming they were violating his rights of the First Amendment right to free speech, and U.S. District Court judge ruled in his favor. The school district then appealed to the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in Fraser’s favor with a broadly worded opinion. The United States Supreme Court decided that the case was involved in free speech.They reversed the Court of Appeals in a 7–2 vote that the suspension did not violate any school district policies.Chief Justice Warren Burger stated that the Court’s opinion, in what ended up along with the Gramm-Rudman decision to be the final case of the Burger Court era.